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Review of the Film Coup 53 By Rich Myers, Beta Pi '69Why do the Iranians hate us so much?  In part, this excellent film helps answer this question.  Though this film is set in 1953 Iran, it is timely and fresh.  It reminds us that we have to be vigilant about what our own government is doing in our names, and that we should always be mindful of the laws of unintended consequences. 

I have to start this review with a disclaimer.  I have been good friends with Paul Zaentz, the producer of this documentary film, since 1968 when we were freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania.  We are fraternity brothers (Pi Kappa Alpha, Beta Pi chapter) and we have stayed in touch for the last 51 years.  Over the last half dozen years, we talked off and on about this film.  Thankfully, as long as I have known him, Paul has always been able to roll with the punches and find creative solutions to seemingly intractable problems.  And there were many in the production of this film.  Because of the vagaries of independent film distribution in general, documentaries in particular, and the worldwide effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Paul had to find a different channel to distribute this film.  Had Paul not been involved with this film, you and I might very well have missed it.  And that would have been awful, because this is a very fine film with a very important message for our times.  I am writing this review so that you will find this film and watch it.  See below for instructions how to stream it.

Although I consider myself a fairly well-educated person, I was unfamiliar with the story that this film covers.  I knew that Iran was the modern name for Persia, but I did not know all that much about its history.  I knew that it was part of OPEC in the early 1970s, and that it was majority Shiite Muslim rather than Sunni Muslim like the majority of the rest of the world.  I did not know who Mohammad Mosaddegh was or that he had come to power after having been democratically elected Prime Minister in Iran in 1951.  I knew nothing about the coup d’etat that had been jointly orchestrated by MI6 and CIA.  That coup is the subject of this film.

The film stars its writer-director, Taghi Amirani.  Mr. Amirani grew up in Iran, left in 1975 to attend college in England, and he did not return to his homeland.  Though he is a physicist, Mr. Amirani became a filmmaker, and even before he made this film, he had a distinguished career.  This film documents Mr. Amirani’s passionate and unflagging quest to establish Great Britain’s role in the orchestration of the coup after the CIA admitted its role in 2013.  His investigation led to Norman Darbyshire, the MI6 point-person for the operation, who died in 1993.  In a convincing guest appearance, distinguished actor Ralph Fiennes incarnates Mr. Darbyshire so that we can hear his words as they may have been spoken in an interview before his death.  Undeniably, the Darbyshire interview is important, but I found the film’s recounting Mr. Mosaddegh’s internal exile in Iran after the coup heartbreaking.

As I have gotten older, I have recognized that very few people are privileged enough to follow their creative passions in life to achieve a masterpiece.  Even before I saw the film, I knew that Paul, as the Producer, had enabled Mr. Amirani’s achievement, which is remarkable in and of itself.  What I only learned lately from Paul is why this was so important to him.  Paul wrote, “In 1973 the CIA helped General Pinochet's coup in Chile that overthrew Allende. Orlando Letelier, one of Allende's ministers, was living in exile in Washington DC and was a critic of Pinochet's government.  In September of 1976 agents of Pinochet planted a bomb in Letelier's car that murdered him and his colleague Ronni Karpen Moffit, who was my [high school] classmate, neighbor and friend in Passaic, NJ. The first film I ever tried to make was about this murder; however, the script was never right. That is why I chose to help make this movie.”  Though Paul did not tell Ms. Moffit’s story directly, I cannot help but think that her memory thematically inspired Paul here.  He and Mr. Amirani have done her proud.

This film is available for streaming.  Please don’t watch this on your phone–you will miss a lot because some of the dialogue is in Farsi and is subtitled.  You will need an HDMI cable to connect from your smart phone, tablet or computer to your television.  After you are set up, then you can link to the film’s distribution here:  

Go to and you will find many sites from which to purchase tickets